The power of One

I remember joining in the thunderous applause by the theater audience and celebrating the awesome impact of a dialogue while watching a blockbuster hit movie. This one sentence said it all – the fabulous power of being One. The dialogue was …

“Mujhe States ke naam na sunai dete hai na dikhai dete hain. Sirf ek mulk ka naam sunai deta hai:

I-N-D-I-A.” 

(I neither hear nor see the names of states. I recognize only one name – that of our country –  I-N-D-I-A).

– Coach Kabir Khan in ‘Chak De India’

If you think of it, its message is truly universal in its meaning and significance.  In fact, the Power of One takes on almost a prophetic form when it comes to building, nurturing and sustaining brands that last.

My recent experience as a customer at a well-known hotel (known for its advertising and marketing prowess), reinforced this further.

Here is what happened. A short and simple story but one that contradicted its brand messaging and what the brand claimed to stand for.

As a guest, I had some questions regarding housekeeping services while checking-in. The very polite but distracted receptionist shared the details with me but promptly ended it with a disclaimer “I think this is what it is, but I am not sure. You see, Housekeeping gets upset with us, if we say something wrong. You can call them and ask them directly.”

Strike One.

Next I reached 24/7 guest services to request for cutlery. They asked me to contact the relevant extension. When I mentioned to the ‘call picker’, (as there was no introduction) that I was referred by guest services, that department representative sarcastically laughed: “they said you could get it from us, is it? Well, they say a lot of things. Anyway (sigh), we will send it to you.”

Strike Two.

And I entered the hotel lobby and looked around. Everywhere the elegant posters and banners smiled at guests promising great service with a smile. But the guest facing departments obviously felt it was perfectly fine to act out their inter-department disconnect in front of us – the guests.

Strike Three.

Let me end the story right here. You see, it is not the big stuff that customers care about. It is actually the little stuff that reflect a brand or culture. So, the experience here was about the Power of None (instead of the Power of One). A brand is built by real time experience of customers and prospects at every touch point. No one cares about the well-meaning advertisements that promise one thing but fail to deliver on it. And this is where the Power of One comes in. Where every department, employee, and stakeholder becomes part of a larger whole and reflects the brand in a unified manner, in line with its brand promise.

In my experience, here are three ways to build the Power of One:

  1. All Mates Aboard!

Train, update, reinforce

Your employees and business partners who represent your brand are your brand ambassadors, brand custodians and brand amplifiers. When they are not trained adequately, or are allowed to behave in a myopic manner with tunnel vision syndrome, the brand experience gets diluted right there. In your brand programs, bring all employees together, create high impact focus groups to give adequate attention instead of just sending mass mailers as FYI, mix them up “cross-functionally” and actively involve them, encourage peer-learning and help them connect the dots – of how every little effort makes up the overall brand experience for the customer. To the customer or prospect, the brand is One, and every employee represents that one brand. Resolving internal conflicts are a Company’s responsibility – the guest need not be pulled into it. And most importantly, do not silo the marketing team from the execution team (i.e. customer facing employees and other stakeholders) when it comes to the brand promise. What one promises, the other must deliver.

  1. Go Undercover!

Audit and Measure

Just like the kings in ancient times would go in disguise to directly feel the pulse of their kingdom and to test the governance controls by their ministers in real time, go ‘undercover’ and audit! If not you, get someone else to do it for you and you will be surprised to know where the real brand stars are and where the brand fractures are. Cut through the layers, and experience it directly. Measure. Identify. Fix.

  1. Lights! Camera! Award!

Celebrate the brand stars

As much as fixing the fissures and fractures are important, celebrate the stars who deliver the brand promise impeccably. Who live the Power of One. Who care about the brand as a whole and are not content with just their part in the overall chain, but genuinely care how the customer feels about any aspect of the brand. These are the movers and shakers who generate repeat business, and bring in new customers. But often they could be hidden, quietly performing at stellar levels in any part of the organization. Bring them out, and treat them “platinum-class” so others aspire to be like them and be rewarded similarly. And when you celebrate, make it big and visible. Empower them to train and coach others so they embed their positive energy, influence others and share their skills throughout the organization.

In summary, it does not matter whether a brand is big or small, global or local, new or old – what matters finally is the customer’s brand experience. Where every touch point delivers the same brand promise – the power of One.

And in case you are curious if I gave feedback to the hotel – yes, I did. And it was received very graciously by a brand star who went the extra mile to ensure the overall customer experience was protected.

Smita Venkataraman
VP & Head - Corporate Communications at AGS Health
A gold medalist in English Literature, she holds post-graduate qualifications from IIM-Bangalore, and Columbia Business School (New York). She is also an author of children's fiction, a story teller with keen interest in ancient India's management principles, a published poetess, and a regular industry speaker.

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